Thursday, December 19, 2013

Things That Suck and Things That Don't

This pretty much says it all. I much prefer smaller non-sanctioned races to events that add on extra expenses so they can make it official and so I can then tally my points at the end of the season to calculate where I stand in the race for mediocrity. 

On another note, not much tickles my fancy more than "discovering" new music, especially when the music I discover has actually been around since about the time I was born. In this case it's the band Hawkwind. Their catalog is extensive but the early '70s saw them at their best. Lemmy was in the band for a few years before forming the now legendary Motorhead , named after a song from Hawkwind. Monster Magnet was heavily influenced by them too, and after listening to songs like the following, it's obvious where Dave Wyndorf found his passion for swirling effects and surreal imaging. My obsession with space continues.... 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tommy Dugan - No F#@ks Will Be Given

I came across the following video today and was completely floored. Big. Smooth. Brakeless. I have to wonder about the sanity of this kid, as he pushes some serious boundaries in this clip. 

At least he wears a helmet. Sometimes. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Silly Speeders in Philly

Though I didn't get to make it to this year's showdown in the city of brotherly love, it was well documented.  For that I am thankful. 

This collection from A.E. Landes Photography sums it up well.

There still may be hope for civilization after all. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dee Rang Oh

I feel so privileged to have lived in Durango, if only for a few short years. The friends I made there are some of my best, and the experiences they've shared with me have undoubtedly made me a better and stronger person. I have ridden and laughed with legends who are consistently busy living life to its fullest. Without hesitation I can say that my time spent in the Southwest riding its trails and roads are some of my fondest memories to date. Seeing this video made me a bit homesick. I hope to once again spend ample time exploring the Four Corners region and continuing the relationships gained while being there. Happy trails my friends.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Daniel Wakefield Pasley is another unique character who has been in and out of my life for about the past decade. He is a sobering, witty and funny fellow who seems to have a camera attached to his face at all times. He doesn't miss much. 

Courtesy of

On my 40th birthday I hooked up with a bunch of my Durango friends and a few of my Portland buddies to tackle a little tour around Beef Basin and through parts of Canyonlands National Park on fat bikes. What transpired from the trip was DWP shooting thousands of photos and carrying about 900 pounds of film in the process - I know this because we all took a turn at pushing his bike at some point. 

Some of the photos and an editorial piece ended up in Wend Magazine (RIP). Though the story was embellished dramatically for entertainment's sake, it made for a good read about what could be, and Damon Riehl even made the cover, which in itself is a story. 

From that trip I gained much, and even a favorite shot of myself that DWP took:

Daniel also runs the website Manuel for Speed where he chronicles pro racers in a way that only he can. The results are fantastic; the details in all of the stories are not what readers might expect, but if you know DWP, you'd presume nothing less. 

So if you ever come across a big white stocky blonde Norwegian with blue eyes who boasts an interminable boyish demeanor and most likely has a Hasselblad in his hands, go say hello. 
You won't regret it. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bizarrely Beautiful and Bristly

I can't exactly take credit for finding this gem, as Stevil beat me to it. Regardless, it's too good to not share with my throngs of followers (listen to the pin drop here). This is a delightful look at a hairy individual with really good taste in hobbies.

The Chop with Ed Oxley from Whitenosugar Productions on Vimeo.

I think the best part, however, is that I found out about the band Kadaver. More specifically, this gem of a song by yet more hairy individuals set in one of my favorite climates:

Rock thrives in the desert.

Friday, November 8, 2013


I recently discovered VeloDirt via a story I am working on for Bicycle Paper about hunting by bike. It's from a group that lives in Portland, Ore., who put together some really cool bike adventures. I highly recommend checking it out.

Photo by yours truly. Somewhere in Utah.

UPDATE: At long last, here's the finished version of the hunting article as published in the winter issue of Bicycle Paper. Now get out there and pull the trigger.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

While recently searching for something to add to date night for the wifey's birthday, I came across a show at Seattle's Paramount Theater. I know Erin's musical tastes pretty well and Empire of the Sun definitely have the dance beat formula she likes. At first glance I was thinking, "you've got to be joking, right?" They look like something from a B-rated Avatar on Broadway show. Lots of gold and other shiny bits, headdresses, makeup... Uber cheese sauce.

But then I gave them a listen. I couldn't help but like it. Part Prince, part MGMT, part Michael Jackson, and something I don't even know. So off we went last night to see them live.

I'll be damned, it was actually really good.

Live, they spare no expense in props and lighting and even have four dancers throughout the set who frequently change costumes.

I've been finding more information on Luke Steele and he was in a band called The Sleepy Jackson, which may be even better and definitely not so over-the-top. And I thought the only good music from Australia was AC/DC, INXS, and Midnight Oil...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mekong Hella - The Band is Back Together

Jon Bailey is a unique individual with many talents. I had the privilege of becoming good friends with him while living in Durango, Colo., and we've remained as such for many years. We spent a lot of time riding bikes, creating art, and playing music in the "Blue House." He's one of those guys who can look at something that is broken and instantly come up with a plan and find the means to fix it, hence why he's a great bike mechanic who's putting together old donated bikes at Durango Cyclery under the moniker Recyclery. He also has an insane amount of talent as an artist.

On the bike, JB will go faster and ride more miles than most anyone, all while throwing in a trick or two in the most demanding technical sections. One of the first adventures I went on after we met was a little thing called the "Freedom Tour." A group of five of us including modern day legends Steve Fassbinder, Bob Gregorio, and Thad Ferrell, set off toward the open expanse of southeast Utah on roads less traveled. I had just recently met all of them and Bob suggested I join in a few days prior.

On the first day of that tour I came to the realization that I was way out of my league. They could ride all day long, sunup to sundown, without even thinking about it - and we climbed some pretty intense roads including the Moki Dugway and the Burr Trail Switchbacks. One night around a poached campsite outside of Natural Bridges everyone suddenly realized that I was riding a double chainring road bike setup on my Gunnar Crosshairs and had a good laugh at my expense (they were all riding mountain bike gearing, i.e. triple chainrings and smaller gears). For that I earned a little respect and it was on that trip that I learned what self-sustained touring was all about and I've been sufficiently hooked ever since. 

Yesterday I got a call from Jon telling me he had a three-hour layover in Seattle so we made a plan to hook up for dinner and beers. He was heading home after another epic trip with a few unsuspecting individuals. It was great to catch up and realize that no matter how much time lapses between visits, we are bros for life. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Derailleurless in Seattle

So the wife has been in China for two weeks exploring and sightseeing, which makes me a bachelor! Sounds awesome, right? Time to let loose and do all those manly things. I had all of these plans to do so much while she was gone. Things like visiting friends, maybe make some new ones, playing and recording music, going out to eat on the cheap ... you get the idea. Instead, I have been laying low at the house and catching up on sleep, eating easy to prep food and watching TV; I'm now up to date on Sons of Anarchy and I've finished Weeds. Damn if I ain't a ton of fun. A baller. 

I did do one thing I'm quite fond of, though. That one thing is converting my Gunnar Crosshairs into a singlespeed cyclocross machine. After ten years of ownership and having countless different setups that include the Gunnar being a road bike, a touring bike (with a triple chainring), a geared 'cross bike and faithful fendered commuter, she's now a bonafide simple steed. 

Perty, idn't she? (note the "hands holding a malamute" in the corner)

As most cyclists making the switch know, the "magic gear" is an extreme rarity and a bike with vertical dropouts will undoubtedly require the use of a chain tensioner. Not so for this project. I found the perfect 38-18 setup that adequately keeps a tight chain line and I couldn't be happier. I raced it last Sunday at the famed Silver Lake course, north of Seattle. It was a hoot and made me realize how perfect singlespeeds are for racing 'cross. No mis-shifts, no mishaps and no overthinking. Just riding as fast and efficient as possible.

And you know what? I'm not missing anything, except for my wife. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Name is Mud

This past weekend's cyclocross race at Lake Sammamish State Park was everything you'd expect from a CX event in the Pacific Northwest. It had rained all weekend and the course featured lots of mud, wet grass, turns, a stretch of sand, heckling from spectators, and more. It was miserable. Worst results I've ever posted in any race. If I really cared I'd probably be pissed and hire a trainer who could help me utilize my VO2 max, but whatever. I do what I can with what I've got and rarely "train" for racing. I normally show up late, put on my fancy pants and ride to the start line at the last second. Someone yells "go" and everyone starts moving forward, some much fast than others; most faster than me. 

Photo by Tassie Orem Kowal

It's funny, this 'cross racing thing. I like to think that I excel in longer efforts when time is measured in hours instead of the allotted 45 minutes that CX races give. Every year I think I'll train hard and post some sweet results and end up with only minimal progression. I usually end up in the middle of the pack, on a good day. Not so this past weekend. I fell apart before I even started and once I "Pete Rosed" it on my belly in some slimy mud after trying to avoid a tree I really fell apart. I cussed like a drunken sailor who just realized he lost his wallet for the remainder and so I sat upright, contemplating throwing in the towel. But that's not me. I don't quit unless there's serious injury involved so I kept going, with the goal of overtaking a fellow teammate who is at about the same level as I am, although he's got two kids and I don't. Deciding to put my head down and give it a go, I chased him for three laps and within the last 1/4 of the final lap, I had him within my sights. I was 30 yards behind and gaining rapidly before I hit the deck again around a subtle but slick corner. Shit. 

It wasn't fun. In fact, I don't remember at any point thinking, "this is great!" No. It sucked. The entire time. And so I'll do it again. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stupid is as Stupid Does

As an experiment regarding recent cycling  fatalities I did a quick Google search of "news cyclist killed". I was appalled at the results. There are far too many cyclist deaths nationwide and it's painfully obvious that more needs to be done to protect us and also educate pedalers and drivers as our numbers continue to grow... 

In Seattle I continually witness stupid maneuvers in traffic from both cyclists and motorists and often wish I could just stop them right where the infraction is incurred and slap the shit out of the side of their heads ... or at least say something to let them know of their stupidity and general lack of regard for others. I've tried the latter but it is usually in vain, as the guilty party typically replies with a wholehearted, "Who the fuck are you?" or a "Do I know you?"

As for the last question? No, you don't actually, but I know you. You're that dipshit who feels entitled because "it's your right to be on the road, gawd dammit," and since we humans are so instinctively competitive and feel that one-upping everyone who comes near us is the way of the world and is, in fact, highly encouraged, it's your oyster ... man.

So I don't do anything and just wait for Darwin's law to sort things out. People often die because of stupidity, among many other things. I can only take part in this rat race and attempt to be happy with the results at the end of the day. Another 24 hours and I'm still breathing; I count my blessings for being in the right place at the right time the majority of that time and so I keep on pedaling. It's all I can do.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Night Beats

The latest Night Beats album, Sonic Bloom, is one of the best releases I've heard this year. This Seattle three-piece has been around for a few years and have made quite a stir while touring extensively and playing big shows such as Austin's Psych Fest and landing gigs with increasingly popular Ty Segall. 

Sonic Bloom is a thorough record and every song on it is good; there's absolutely no filler songs or throwaway tracks. I found myself listening to the album ( numerous times each day since it's been available for streaming; it's scheduled to be officially released on September 24. The opener, "Love Ain't Strange (Everything Else Is)" commands the direction of this reverb- and tremolo-steeped audio spaceship and "Playing Dead" could easily be a commercial hit while "Catch a Ride To Sonic Bloom" takes the listener on a voyage of hazy astral time travel. If you're not familiar with this band and you like psychedelic lo-fi garage rock that makes you want to put on an old pair of boots and dark sunglasses and then swagger around anonymously through the city or get utterly lost under the desert sky, I highly recommend giving them a listen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sage Cycles

One of the job perks of working at Bicycle Paper is acquiring gear and giving it a thorough testing before writing a review for the publication (and for the web). By far, my favorite product to test among the myriad of options that are sent to me, or at least presented to me (some things are best left alone, as they are often needless products and are based on the assumption that someone would actually buy them) is a new bicycle. Enter the latest steed I procured: a titanium cyclocross bike from Portland's Sage Cycles. 

Designed by Dave Levy of Ti Cycles, the PDXCX is a beautiful bike; I've always been obsessed with the looks of titanium since I laid my eyes on a Moots back in the '90s. The gunmetal gray of a titanium frame may be simple looking to the casual observer, but those in the know, know. I've taken it out on some technical and root-strewn mountain bike trails, long stretches of gravel, and put it to the test during cyclocross practice with some of my teammates.

It handles like a champ and everything you'd expect from the frame material is what I've experienced so far. It's light - although it could be lighter, but I'll get to that - it absorbs the bumps and flexes minimally when cranking on the pedals, leaving little energy wasted while hammering up hills or performing intervals on the ride to and from the office.

Though Sage Cycles are designed in Portland, they're made in Taiwan. That said, this lowers the price significantly and I believe they will sell well because of it. The welds are nowhere near as meticulous as  a Moots or even a Lynskey, for example, but they look good enough. And if a weld does happen to fail, Levy will repair it in his shop; Dave Rosen, the companies sales and marketing guru, promises a quick turnaround to get owners back in saddle.

About the heavy stuff: the PDXCX that I am riding has a set of Mavic Crossride wheels, which are an inexpensive line designed for mountain bikes. While not exactly lightweight 'cross wheels, they make up for it by instilling confidence while riding off-road. Speaking of these hoops, disc brakes are the cat's meow. Equipped with mechanical brakes at the moment, the PDXCX can also handle hydraulics. For the upcoming racing season, I will swap out one or both of the wheels with my own Easton mountain bike race wheels, which should reduce rolling weight dramatically. In the meantime, the Crossrides are great for training and I have a feeling I'll be much stronger for it while battling it out for 20th-something place on Sundays this fall.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cancer Is Shit

Today I stumbled upon the blog of Ezra Caldwell, a framebuilder who has terminal cancer. As I began to read I couldn't help but feel awful for him and what he is going through - sounds pretty stupid, really, as I have no idea what it's like to be in his shoes. Only he does.

I can only imagine what it would be like to have everything going for you: an artistic eye, a successful business that involves your true passion, and a beautiful woman to share it with, when suddenly everything is upended and life takes on a new meaning. What would it be like knowing that you're never going to grow old with the one you love and that you'll never get to see their face and body as an old person, nor will they of you? That you're completely denied the experience of growing old? What happens to all of those dreams you had when you're younger? And what about the expectation that you were going to live a long life and experience so many wonderful things before your time was up in this world, now knowing it's coming to a premature end? And soon.

His positivity is awe-inspiring and I can only be thankful that he is sharing his experience with others. Fight the good fight, brother.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Melvins Like Ice Cream

People may sometimes wonder why I like the Melvins so much. Well, here's reason number 444.

Buzzo tossing ice cream to children!

This definitely made my day more tolerable.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I'll admit, reading comments online is generally futile and unfortunately it offers an extremely disappointing look at humanity and the lopsidedness of the "US vs THEM" mentality that runs rampant in our society. 

Take this comment by "Martel" for instance, as viewed on KOMO News regarding the mayoral race and the likelihood of Mayor McGinn remaining in office:

"Two progressive, anti-freedom libtards, Seattle is trying to kill itself. Watch as traffic continues to get worse. Seattle has the 4th worst traffic of any US urban center yet we are not even close to being the 4th largest. 

Watch Murray and McGoo continue their war on cars. Watch as more business close and leave the city as the regulations and rules continue to pile up. Seattle's rating as a good place to start a business hasn't risen in 20 years. As more businesses leave, city tax revenues will drop and as the city starves for operational budgets they will impose more taxes on the remaining citizens. Either one of these moonbats will continue to violate state law concerning firearms and the fact that cities cannot independently regulate them, wasting millions more of tax dollars in court. 

And we already have no extra money...

But hey, more bike lanes right!"

Hey Martel, you complain about traffic, which is due to people DRIVING, yet you bash on the mayor because he pushes alternative modes of transportation and he rides a bike, which LESSENS TRAFFIC. His or her argument makes no sense. Period. 

People are so blinded by their convictions they rarely look at the bigger picture or other points of view. In my opinion, one of the biggest problems we face as humans is fanaticism, on all fronts. They start wars, fist fights, groupthink, and create the greed that is responsible for most our woes. Most of all, it harms children who are born with an open mind. And so the cycle continues. 

Sometimes I really think we're screwed. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Before Ministry was Cool, Ministry was cool!

I use music to get me through life. From my earliest memories to just five minutes ago, music is a part of my daily routine. I wake up with songs in my head, I go to sleep with songs in my head. In between those moments I am usually listening. I discovered this little gem of a website today called Teletunes LIVES! It's a site dedicated to the station that used to be big in Colorado in the '80s and I discovered a lot of good music by watching the show in my teenage years. Today I discovered this little gem. It will be playing in my head while riding my bike home later today...

And I found this one today...

Freaky stuff.

Monday, June 10, 2013


I didn't race the Ballard Crit, I didn't race mountain bikes in Chelan, I didn't race track at Marymoor … What I did do is camp on Saturday north of Cle Elum Lake with my wife Erin and about 12 others in celebration of a birthday… 

Oh it went there

Each year we do something similar and in a similar location so I usually ride from Cle Elum back  to Seattle via the Iron Horse Trail / John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Trying to pace myself all day on Saturday and having absolutely no luck with that, it ended up a long day of games and deeerankin… And maybe even a couple of lips full of Grizzly chewing tobacco (when in Rome).

Woke up on Sunday with one of the worst hangovers to date, and had serious doubts about  riding back to Seattle, but I said I was going to do it and brought my bike, so … I powered up on Perrier and fruit and faced that brown bottle flu the best way I knew how - by pedaling.


I hopped on the trail feeling lousy and then flatted within 15 minutes - I opted to take my Fondriest SF2 after I mounted some 28s on it instead of my usual ride, the Gunnar Crosshairs due to some brake issues I was having while getting it ready for the ride. After a dizzying tube swap on the side of the trail, I then spent the following four hours crawling on rough gravel into a headwind, pulling over frequently to almost vomit, which I came close to doing numerous times but managed not to. I can usually "pedal away the poison" but it didn't seem like the day was going to see me through it… 

Trail side repair stand

I took a short nap behind Lake Hyak, when I got  call from the wife wondering how I was doing (she was back in Seattle by this point). A pathetically toned, "Not so good," was my reply and I seriously thought about having her pick me up at that point… I instead decided to give it another go and let her know my progress periodically via el telefono. 

Opting not to travel through the Snoqualmie Tunnel, as riding three miles in a cold dark lightless and damp underground cave seemed torturous. I opted on descending the old highway between the East/West I-90 split, which was a great call - if you've never ridden it, I highly recommend this stretch: switchbacks, narrow and smooth pavement, and overhead tree canopy are all involved. 


Once down from the old highway I crossed over and took Tinkham Road, which is considerably rougher than the Iron Horse, complete with giant rocky potholes and a water crossing. I rode this for the next few miles before being dumped onto the interstate where I dodged road debris for the next 15 miles with giant trucks doing 75 mph screaming past my left shoulder. 

Lake Easton 

Eventually making it to North Bend around 5:30 p.m., Erin called asking where I was … she wasn't impressed with my progress and insisted meeting me in Issaquah at Rogue Breweryhouse … I agreed and hopped on the parallel road and motored it until it spit me back onto the interstate for more death-defying fun. I exited at SE High Point Way, which led to the gravel path that runs by Grand Ridge Trailhead and finally made it safely into Issaquah for fish and chips. 

Stats: 70 miles total of mostly vitamin G (gravel) with a wicked dehydrated hangover on a sunny day. I wish there could have been more enjoyment during the adventure, but my head was too busy pounding itself to the rhythm of my heart.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Three Things That Get my Shants in a Bunch

1. Bagpipes. They sound like a herd of cattle being slaughtered and there are a couple of maimed survivors within the group mourning the loss of their beloved bovine brethren.

2. Accordions. "Excuse me, but I'm trying to enjoy my meal here and have a somewhat intelligent conversation with my wife and/or friends, I would really appreciate it if you weren't standing over us squeezing that obnoxious block of air and looking at us like a lost puppy. Thanks." 

3. Tinted windows. This morning I was riding into work on a quiet residential street, heading downhill, when a "murdered out" Jeep appeared on the side street to my right. I slowed down as they started to go through the intersection before suddenly slamming on their brakes, giving me what I believed to be the go-ahead. As I was proceeding through said intersection, the driver, who I COULD NOT SEE AT ALL, honked at me. If I could have seen the person - for all I know it was a 9-year-old pygmy hermaphrodite wearing a clown suit - I would have been able to make eye contact and better assess the situation. This is SEATTLE, you know, that place where it's usually cloudy and/or raining and the winter days consist of about six hours of actual daylight. Why does ANYONE need tinted windows here? Are you in the Secret Service? A member of the mafia? No? Then do yourself and everyone else a favor and get windows that you can actually see through - that way you're not slamming on the brakes when I "suddenly come out of nowhere" as if I just magically appeared out of the blue like an unshaven apparition on two wheels.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Finn Utility’s Tool Roll Up

Former Portland, Ore., resident Ryan McDonald recently began designing products that are based on two of his longtime passions — riding bikes and fly fishing. He calls this latest endeavor Finn Utility. Based out of a woodsy location in Vermont, the company handcrafts high end, practical duffel bags and accessory holders. I have been using the Tool Roll Up the past couple of months. Here are my thoughts. 

Constructed from 10-ounce waxed cotton canvas, the Tool Roll Up has four front compartments of equal size as well as a full-length pocket behind them. The top half folds over these pockets and the whole piece rolls up and is secured by an adjustable leather strap and solid brass buckle. Easily attachable to a bike’s seat rails, it fits snug under the saddle. 

I usually keep an extra tube, multi-tool, tire levers, a small crescent wrench and a patch kit in it. While contents may not be as easy to access as with traditional seat bags, which have a rear zipper entry, it is still simple enough to get to for roadside repairs. I like the way it lays out flat and I can place smaller parts like washers and Allen bolts on it without fear of losing them on the ground while I am working on the bike — the orange fabric located on the inside contrasts nicely for this purpose. It can also be used for other applications such as carrying fishing gear or other small items that need to be organized for transport.

Overall, I am very impressed by this product and foresee it being on my bike for years to come. The leather strap and buckle seem to be durable enough to handle thousands of openings and closings as well. Aesthetically it stands out from the norm and I believe this will catch the eye of those looking for a seat bag to match their leather Brooks saddle and/or appreciate more natural looking gear. 

Dimensions are 13” wide x 9” high before folding. MSRP is $50. Made in the U.S.A. Visit for more information. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Bike Snob Abroad - As Published in May 2013 Bicycle Paper

Eben Weiss, more widely known as BikeSnobNYC, has been putting his satirical brand of humor on the state of cycling culture for quite some time now. What started out as an anonymous blog by some unknown smartass from the big city has become a social phenomenon, and his popularity — much like cycling — has skyrocketed in the past few years. Coincidence? Maybe so, but I would venture to say that his books and the regular touring and speaking he does to support them have added to the allure and overall boost of urban riding. 

His latest effort, Bike Snob Abroad, is a lot less about categorizing and poking fun at tattooed skintight-jean-wearing fixed gear riders and heavily bearded uber commuters who live and sleep in yellow rain jackets and cheap bike shorts. Instead, it is more about the significance and the possible impact of the bicycle being seen as utilitarian here in the United States instead of simply a way to get one’s kicks, terrorize pedestrians, or get in the way of drivers. You see, in many European countries, bikes are as integral in everyday life as the automobile is on America’s roadways. In his travels he finds that other cultures barely bat an eye upon seeing a helmet-less rider or someone transporting a child that’s not stuffed inside a trailer wearing a brain bucket, whereas in the States both instances would undoubtedly be frowned upon ... or even worse if these “infractions” were combined.

He also expounds on the boundaries that keep many from riding. On page 118 he details how many of today’s cyclists started through recreational riding and so they are somewhat pretentious when it comes to the type of bike they’re willing to mount — he admits to being one of those such people. 

“This is probably one of our greatest handicaps as a cycling nation — the complete inability to simply jump on any bike and ride ... the few of us who do actually ride can’t so much as hop on a basic city bike without fussing over seat height and bar width and lamenting the lack of foot retention,” he writes. 

This mentality later ties into bike sharing programs, which he experienced while briefly visiting London. Americans are very independent, so things tend to have to be personalized to fit our perception of who we think we are — this includes the tricked out Escalade, the souped-up Subaru WRX ... or in Seattle, the shiny black Audi A4 complete with a hurried puffy-jacketed driver. Being seen on a generic step-through bike that others are also on may quell the coolness factor. But what if we didn’t care and saw shared bikes for what they are — convenient. After all, that’s what most of us modernized humans want, something that doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to fulfill our needs. What if you didn’t need to own a bike?

“Fixed-gear riders may talk about ‘Zen,’ but I can’t think of anything more Zen than being a cyclist who doesn’t own a bike,” he writes on page 152. It made me stop and think. Although I could never fathom not having my own, it would sometimes be nice to just grab a bike, head to my destination, do my thing and then grab a different one on the way back — never fretting about someone stealing something I worked so hard for, or in the very least swiping my flask out of its custom cage (true story).

In many ways Weiss calls out our unwillingness to change and let go of tradition. In America we like to own things and let others know this without any uncertainty. Sadly, many out there think they own the roads, especially if paying for gas, the taxes and fees that come along with automobile possession. Add to that the monthly car payment and insurance, there’s a strong feeling of “I pay for this, get out of my way.” 

I can relate to much of the reminiscing Weiss writes about in the book, as we are about the same age. His tales of riding to the record store to buy punk and metal albums as a teenager and simply riding around town to watch people was a normal and frequent escape for me and my friends in the small town I grew up in. It was a time of complete freedom, then one day when that magical number 16 came up it was no longer acceptable to be seen pedaling around on two wheels. Instead, the automobile became a status symbol and burning rubber in the parking lot was the next rite of passage and the surefire way to gain acceptance among peers. That said, at least I could play my music on the car stereo — although thinking back, I used to carry a boom box with me while pedaling around my neighborhood, usually something like Judas Priest or Ted Nugent turned up to 10. 

So what does my teenage self have to do with this particular book? Much of Bike Snob Abroad is about the simplicity of bicycles and where they stand to help create safer streets and a positive change in our society. This straightforwardly written and rather short publication sometimes goes astray and often the prose does get redundant (his movie to life comparisons, at least five, were a bit much), but in the end it compelled me to think; not only of where we stand as cyclists today, but where we came from, our roots. And if more people remembered where they came from, perhaps we’d all get along a little better and take a few small steps that are necessary to creating a better world to live in. 

Bike Snob Abroad, Strange Customs, Incredible Fiets, and the Quest for Cycling Paradise. Eben Weiss, aka BikeSnobNYC. Chronicle Books. Hardback. 192 pages. $16.95.

Speed and Hammocks

After months of sitting in the basement collecting dust, I finally sacked up and took the Fondriest in for some much needed adjustment. I was having some serious shifting problems and that's something I just can't stand for - part of the reason I ride a singlespeed mountain bike...

Yesterday on the commute in I was clunking through the gears and swearing like a drunken sailor in the process so I decided to take the rig into Back Alley Bike Repair where Julian hooked me up with some wrench love and a new/old Campagnolo skewer for the rear wheel, after the previous one was realized as completely stripped and unusable due to the repeated Thor-like tightening of it that was necessary to keep the wheel from slipping out, thanks to the polished chrome dropouts. (They look pretty but in actuality they are extremely dangerous - on several occasions the wheel dropped out while taking off from a stop light, in traffic).

A few turns of a spoke wrench and a quick setting of the limiter screws on the front derailleur (it was dropping to the outside often), and I was on my way to shifting jubilation.

After work I tested out Julian's handiwork by riding the Magnolia Loop and was so motivated by the ease of pedaling and shifting I decided upon numerous hill repeats in Discovery Park.

This morning my friend and coworker, Rick Peterson, swung by the house and we rode in together to grab some free coffee and bagels during a Bike Month presentation/gathering on 5th and Stewart. We took the extremely busy Burke Gilman Trail and the bike highway that is Dexter Avenue. Holy shit are there a lot of people cycling right now! At several red lights there must have been 30 cyclists idling.

The mayor gave a speech along with other advocacy types at the bagel event, then he pedaled away with an entourage. It's pretty cool that someone in his position is free to ride around with the rest of us and if you didn't know it was him you'd think it was just another of Seattle's uber-commuters.

Sunny and 80 degrees in May, a solid fitness level and a fast bike to boot. Life isn't so bad.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Running into Walls

Here I am in my 40s and I still get great satisfaction from watching skateboard videos. They keep me young and energetic and give the feeling that anything is possible if you make it happen.

 My alter-ego totally shreds the city landscapes. 

This guy is ridiculously good.